Riga is the Baltic’s emergent financial and commercial capital with one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. Since the independence of Latvia in 1991, and the subsequent entry into the European Union, foreign investment has flourished, with expanded activity in all significant areas of Latvia’s economy.
Latvia’s geographic position gives it a unique position as a Pan-Nordic center, and European capital at the point of convergence between Russia and the EU.
Zakusala Island presents a very rare and amazing development opportunity. While the waterfront of Riga is defined by its industrial past, Zakusala offers the possibility to start from scratch and to create a new type of waterfront development where architecture and landscape, local and international, public and private investment, form an integrated whole.
For the master plan of Zakusala we began by identifying the unique features of the site, orientation, adjacencies, access, infrastructure, natural qualities, visual prominence, ownership(s), and from this established a hypothetical zoning framework.
The strategy for development takes as a point of departure the dialectic condition between built and un-built, where real concentration and real openness can be explored while their mutual proximity and synergy maintained. The island is bifurcated by a bridge, where one-half of the island remains a park within the UNESCO ring, and the other allows exploration in new forms of density.
Consolidation reduces redundancy and promotes hybrid programming, synergy between functions, and growth. The waterfront is liberated for diverse public activity.
The rapidly developing tourism sector has created tremendous pressure for hotel accommodation in Riga. The strategy for Zakusala capitalizes on this need, creating supra-hotels, each with a dedicated ‘perfect’ site – entrepreneurial territorialism.
The hotels are unique destinations; thematic islands that will organize and trigger future development. With the supra-hotels as catalysts for the development, the remainder of the site can evolve quite freely following market demand.
A ‘soft’ zoning is formed through the combination of the magnetism of compact and highly specific urban cores (supra-hotels), programmatic progression (commercial to cultural and urban to sub-urban), hierarchical traffic structure, protected open space, and major outdoor public space.
Inspired by the TV tower at the eastern end of site, a top media park is envisioned – a new synthesis of entertainment, leisure, and production
1. The Red Carpet
The Red carpet is a central pedestrian promenade that acts as a distinct connective tissue to programs subordinate to it. Occupied by a media/exhibition centre, retail, nightlife, cafes and restaurants, it links the most important internal and external public spaces with each other and simultaneously both waterfronts
2. Central Plaza
The central plaza is defined by a landscaped cut between the two phases of the development. With two large pools of water collecting within concave depressions, the plaza has a bilateral existence operating as an ice skating rink in the winter, and a leisure bath/fountain in the summer. The Live arena, accessed from within the Red Carpet has been conceived of as a double sided black box capable of housing performances from within as well as towards the plaza.
Along the northeast side of the island is a tree-lined Boulevard. The pedestrian walkway, steps down to provide access to the river, while concurrently marking the entrances to the hotels and Red Carpet. The walkway continues along the Urban Waterfront past the marina and water taxi stop, then gradually narrow to a footpath that follows the water’s edge through the natural park to the tip of the island.
Zakusala Island, Riga, Latvia
Space Group team: Adam Kurdahl, Gary Bates, Gro Bonesmo, Fredrik Krogeide, Gerald Blim, Jeremy Richey, Lotte Sponberg, Minna Riska, Naofumi Namba, Tim Prins Wenche Andreasen, JDS team: Julien de Smedt, Fabio Faberatti